Socrates And Socrates: A Philosophical Pair For The Ages

2099 words - 8 pages

In Walter Mosley’s Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, the reader is introduced to Socrates Fortlow, an ex-convict who served twenty-seven years for murder and rape. Fortlow is plagued by guilt and, seeing the chaos in his town, feels a need to improve not only his own standards of living, but also those of others in Watts. He attempts this by teaching the people in Watts the lessons he feels will resolve the many challenges the neighbourhood faces. The lessons Fortlow teaches and the methods by which he teaches them are very similar to those of the ancient Greek philosopher for whom Fortlow was named: “‘We was poor and country. My mother couldn’t afford school so she figured that if she named me after somebody smart then maybe I’d get smart’” (Mosley, 44). Though the ancient Greek was born to be a philosopher and Fortlow assumed the philosopher role as a response to the poor state of his life and Watts, both resulted in the same required instruction to their populations. The two Socrates’ both utilize a form of teaching that requires their pupil to become engaged in the lesson. They emphasize ethics, logic, and knowledge in their instruction, and place importance on epistemology and definitions because they feel a problem cannot be solved if one does not first know what it is. Socrates was essential in first introducing these concepts to the world and seemed to be born with them inherent to his being, Fortlow has learned the ideals through life experience and is a real-world application in an area that needs the teachings to get on track. While the two men bear many similarities, their differences they are attributed primarily as a result of their circumstances provide the basis of Fortlow’s importance in Watts and as a modern-day representation of the ancient Greek philosopher.
The two Socrates’ begin their careers differently, but it is these journeys that allow them to gain their philosophical perspectives. Though Fortlow does not actually identify or consider himself to be a philosopher, a good man, or a teacher, he progresses into a modern, street-wise philosopher. He assumes this role after being released from jail and developing a desire for good. Charles E. Wilson says that now that Socrates has been released from jail, “his sole motivation now is to maintain control of his life by keeping his emotions and internal drives in check” (Wilson, 129). To gain control of his own life, Fortlow must, to some extent, also have a positive impact on the people and environment around him so that these circumstances do not adversely influence him, and to ensure a better quality of life for others.
Fortlow’s embodiment of the philosopher and teacher role is most evident and actually commences with Darryl, a young boy from his neighbourhood who Fortlow discovers killing his rooster. A major part of Fortlow’s philosopher persona results from him confronting those who offend him and helping them to determine their injustices in turn, teaching them...

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